How to Write a Check in 6 Simple Steps

Paper checks can seem like a relic of the past in this fast-paced world of plastic and tech.

While most of us now pay for things with a swipe, tap, or with our phones, paper checks still have their place. Even if only once in a blue moon, knowing how to write a check is an important skill to have in your back pocket for those rare occasions where checks are your best or only option.

Although writing a check is a simple process, it’s critical to fill them out correctly to avoid opening the door to theft or other financial deception.

Read on to learn how to write a check in 6 simple steps and how to protect yourself when writing checks.

Do I Need to Know How to Write a Check?

Yes!

While rare, writing a check is still an important skill to have. Many small businesses, landlords, and contractors prefer checks to other methods of payment to avoid credit card fees (yes, merchants pay a fee for you to use a credit card) and the need for card-reading equipment. You may also want to write checks when giving money as a gift rather than cash.

It’s true that writing checks are no longer an everyday occurrence, but the practice hasn’t completely died out yet.

Parts of a Check

Before we jump into how to write a check it’s important to first understand the parts of a check and their purpose.

Your Information – this section includes your name and address

Date – the current date, which will be found in the top right-hand corner of the check

Check Number – the number will depend on how many checks you’ve already written, usually begins with number 001, and is usually found in the top right-hand corner of the check but also on the bottom

Bank Information – the name and address of the financial institution where you keep the bank account connected to the checks

Pay to the Order Of – the name of the person or organization you’re paying

Dollar Amount (Numerical) – the amount you’re paying in numerical form

Dollar Amount (Written) – the amount you’re paying written out

Memo Line – a short note detailing the purpose of the payment

Signature Line – your signature signifying that you agree to pay the amount to the payee

Routing Number – the routing number for your financial institution

Account Number – your account number for the account associated with the checks

parts of a check

Where Can I Get Checks?

The quickest and simplest way to get checks is to order them through your bank or credit union. Unfortunately, this method is also often the most expensive and could cost you upwards of $30.

Luckily, you can now order checks from a variety of places if you have a few crucial pieces of information. To order checks from somewhere other than your financial institution, you’ll need your routing number, account number, personal information (name and address), and bank information.

While it takes a little more work to order checks from an alternative source, you’ll save a decent chunk of money.

Here are some great places to order checks:

These check alternatives will cost you less than $20 for a box of checks and offer a wide selection of designs to choose from. Plus, unless you write checks frequently, one box will probably last you years.

Before Writing a Check

Writing a check can be cumbersome in today’s world, but luckily you won’t typically need to write a check unless you prefer this method.

There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of writing checks, including:

  • Paying your bills online
  • Setting up automatic payments
  • Using a debit or credit card for purchases
  • Using payment services like Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, and Paypal

In some cases, you still may need to write a check, but they will be rare. These instances include when working with contractors and small businesses, or when you want to avoid paying the fees associated with other payment methods.

Here is how to write a check in a few simple steps for those rare occasions.

How to Write a Check in 6 Simple Steps

Step 1: Date

Write the date that you’re filling out the check. While you can postdate a check (write it for a date in the future), you’ll need to make sure you have funds available on that date so that the check clears.

On the other hand, backdating (writing a date in the past) is usually considered a no-no and can even be fraudulent in some situations.

Step 2: Recipient or Payee

Write in the name of the person or business you’re paying. This is known as the payee.

Step 3: Payment Amount – Numerical Form

Write the numerical amount in the small box next to the payee’s name. The best practice is to write the cent amount smaller and in superscript (at the top of the section) with an underline.

Step 4: Payment Amount – Written Form

You’ll also need to document the payment amount in word form. This is to help combat fraudulent or altered checks. Once you’ve added the written amount in word form, make a strikethrough line to the end of the section to safeguard against alteration.

Step 5: Memo

Write a short description of what the check payment is for, such as “Yard Work” or “Garage Sale Purchase.”

Step 6: Signature

Once all other sections are filled out, you’ll need to sign the check to authorize the payment. Make sure all the information in the other sections is correct before signing.

steps of writing a check

After Writing a Check

Congratulations! You’ve successfully written a check.

Once you’ve written the check your payment is on its way, but there is still work to do.

You’ll want to record your transaction to ensure that your budget is balanced and you’re not overspending. This process is especially critical with checks because there’s a delay between when the check is written and when the funds come out of your account.

In the old days, people would record check transactions in their checkbook, but most no longer use that method. Whatever budgeting app or method you use, make sure you manually enter any checks you’ve written so that your books are accurate.

Remember, an automated budget system won’t pull check information until the money is taken out of your account, which could take several days.

How to Write a Check: Security Tips

Now that you know how to write a check, here are some tips to help ensure that you don’t become a victim of check fraud.

Use Ink – always use a pen to fill out checks to help prevent alteration

Completely Fill in the Amount Line – when writing the payment amount in word form, either fill in the line with words or draw a strikethrough line to the end. This prevents alteration.

Sign Last – make sure you only sign once you’ve filled out the entire check. If you sign partially filled out or blank checks and they gets lost, you open yourself up to fraud.

Make Sure You Have Sufficient Funds – it takes several days for a check to clear, so it’s important to make sure you have sufficient funds in your account to avoid bouncing a check (overdrafts). Not only will you not be able to pay your obligations, but your bank will charge you overdraft fees!

How to Void a Check

If you make a mistake while writing a check it’s important that you void it to prevent fraud. Simply write void in large letters across the check and that will indicate that the check is no longer valid.

How to Write a Check: Final Thoughts

Writing a check may seem like an outdated skill, but this practice hasn’t yet completely died out.

While a simple process, it’s important to know how to properly write a check for those rare occasions when you’ll need to write one, especially to protect yourself against fraud.

Now that you know how to write a check you’re prepared for any form of payment you may need to use.

 

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Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.

She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.

Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.